The ratings are in, and the numbers aren’t good for Fox News. In the week and half since Tucker Carlson was taken off the air, the network has lost nearly half of its viewers in the 8pm hour that was occupied by Carlson’s Tucker Carlson Tonight program. And it’s not just his former time slot that is suffering. Fox News’ primetime ratings have taken a hit across the board, and the network is now losing to MSNBC and even CNN.
The decline comes as stories continue to come out about Carlson’s behavior behind the scenes. Megyn has called the leaks an “orchestrated campaign to absolutely ruin Tucker Carlson.” And if the goal is to ensure his audience continues watching the network, it doesn’t seem to be going according to plan.
On Thursday’s show, Megyn was joined by the hosts of Ruthless – Comfortably Smug, Michael Duncan, and John Ashbrook – to discuss the ratings disaster Fox News is facing, whether or not the viewers will ever return, and the truth about the leaks.
The Decline of the Fox News Primetime Ratings
As Megyn has stated, she believes the leaks about Carlson are coming from inside Fox News – most likely from the senior vice president of corporate communications Irena Briganti. “I believe a campaign orchestrated from within… is working with the mainstream to just demonize him even further as a racist lunatic who needed to go,” she explained.
If you look at the headlines about Carlson that are topping the print and digital pages of The New York Times, MSNBC, USA Today, Forbes, The Hill, Washington Post, Vanity Fair, Chicago Tribune, The Guardian, Variety, Slate, The Hollywood Reporter, Business Insider, Newsweek, and the like, Megyn said you can see “Fox’s fingerprints on it” and Carlson’s fans clearly aren’t buying it. “We don’t know the real reason he was canned, but the audience gets it,” she shared. “They may be able to convince USA Today, but they’re not convincing Tucker’s core audience.”
How can you be sure? Look at the ratings, Megyn said.
Comparing the seven days Carlson has been off the air to the final week he was on at 8pm, the figures are staggering. The overall audience number (i.e. everyone who is watching) is down 47 percent. Meanwhile, the key advertising demo of 25 to 54 year olds is down 59 percent. “They’ve lost almost two-thirds of the audience that helps pay their bills – they’re left with about a third of their audience,” Megyn noted. “I mean, that’s stunning.”
But the damage runs deeper. “I looked up and down the board at the rest of the primetime, which – with all due respect to the daytime – is all anyone gives a sh-t about over there at Fox News,” Megyn explained. “The primetime pays the bills, and they’re all down.”
Hannity, the show that follows Carlson’s program at 9pm, is down 23 percent overall and 39 percent in the demo. The Ingraham Angle at 10pm lost 20 percent in total viewers and 24 percent among 25 to 54 year olds. Even Greg Gutfeld’s show at 11pm is feeling the effects, though a bit less so. Overall, Fox News has “lost repeatedly to MSNBC,” Megyn added. “They even have lost to CNN, which has no one watching it.”
Losing to its cable news rivals is what is likely causing the most consternation. “Here’s what’s happening for sure inside Fox News: Panic is setting in,” Megyn said. “If they lose a month to MSNBC, it will be a catastrophic moment for them… because that’s what they really care about – trust me.”
Will Fox News Viewers Return?
This is not the first time Fox News has lost its biggest primetime talent. It managed to survive the departures of both Megyn and Bill O’Reilly’s in short order. “I think, long-term, Fox will probably figure it out,” Duncan said. “But I’m curious if you look back at when Glenn Beck left, or when Megyn left, or when Bill O’Riley left, were there drops as well and how long did it take Fox to sort of dig out of that hole?”
Megyn said she believes Fox News had an easier time weathering those losses because of the political climate. “It was during the Trump era, so I don’t know that you can compare,” she shared. “Now it’s a little different.”
While the 2024 election is around the corner, Megyn noted that Fox news has seemingly “turned on Trump,” while CNN appears to be revisiting its 2016 strategy of covering the GOP hopeful. “I don’t know that [Fox News is] going to be taking all the rallies and the campaign events the way they used to,” she said. “CNN seems ready to do that, as they did the first time.”
Additionally, viewers might not return simply because Carlson was such a unique talent. “When you turn on the news, you want to know what it is that you’re not hearing, you want the information that the corporate media is not telling you,” Ashbrook explained. “Tucker told that to his audience every single night, and the fact that so many people in corporate media are offended by it, don’t like it, are trying to shut him up, only makes his audience love him even more because it validates the reason they were watching him in the first place.”
Why the Leaks About Tucker Carlson Are Backfiring
If Fox News’ strategy is to besmirch Carlson’s character in hopes of winning back his viewers, it’s not working. “I will tell you, this drip, drip, drip of ‘kill him’ is backfiring,” Megyn explained. “So far, they’re hemorrhaging – the audience is so angry, they’re punishing them up and down the board.”
For one thing, the powers that be may want to find a different media partner. “The one thing I would say about the leaks is, if you’re trying to damage the credibility of Tucker Carlson and explain to your audience why he had to be let go, I think Media Matters is probably the worst place in America you go to get a story written,” Duncan joked.
Moreover, the ‘damaging’ material that is being shared seems to be having the opposite effect. “What they’re doing to him isn’t working,” Megyn concluded. “The audience is only falling more in love with him as they see the way he is off the air.”
You can check out Megyn’s full interview with the Ruthless guys by tuning in to episode 543 on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you like to listen. And don’t forget that you can catch The Megyn Kelly Show live on SiriusXM’s Triumph (channel 111) weekdays from 12pm to 2pm ET.